Sandrine Bonnaire puts her exquisite frown to good use as a hotel cleaning woman in Corsica who finds fulfillment and self-respect when she learns to play chess. Her lumpen spouse (Francis Renaud) is no help at all, and she quickly outgrows her electronic chessboard, so for lessons she appeals to her gruff, bookish employer (Kevin Kline in his French-language debut). The game's appeal is presented in emphatically sexual terms (Bonnaire gets interested after seeing a scantily clad couple play on the balcony of their hotel room), so I was pleasantly surprised when writer-director Caroline Bottaro, adapting a novel by Bertina Henrichs, bypassed the expected love triangle. Subplots involving the heroine's resentful husband and rebellious teenage daughter never amount to much, though the story builds toward a satisfactory, if formulaic, climax when the woman dares to compete in a tournament against a succession of smug bourgeois men. In French with subtitles.
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